Asahina Yoshihide (朝比奈義秀)

Yoshihide ASAHINA (1176 - Year of death unknown) was a busho (Japanese military commander) in the early Kamakura period. He used Asahina for his family name as he administered Asai County, Awa Province as his territory. His common name was Saburo. He was a family head of Asahina clan (family of Wada clan).

His father was Yoshimori WADA but his mother (see later for reference), wife and children are not known. Tsunemori WADA was his older brother and Tomomori WADA was his nephew.

He was the busho who fought furiously and showed the most remarkable service in Battle of WADA, which was brought by his father Yoshimori, who was a Samuraidokoro Betto (an administrator of the Board of Retainers), to overthrow Hojo clan. "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East) describes details of the distinguished deeds of Yoshihide in the battle.


In October 1200, when MINAMOTO no Yoriie, the Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") was having a feast (a drinking party) on a boat with young gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) after holding a kasagake (horseback archery competition) on the beach of Kotsubo (near Kamakura), he ordered Yoshihide who was said to be an expert of swimming to show the skill. Yoshihide jumped into the sea, swam back and forth for 10 times then dived to bottom of the sea and rose to the surface with holding three sharks, showing his great physical strength. Yoriie was going to reward him with a famous horse from Mutsu Province to praise the skill. Yoshihide's older brother Tsunemori claimed that he would not lose to his younger brother in Sumo and they had a showdown in Sumo at the beach, as the horse had been the Tsunemori's desired horse for sometime. Both of them had great physical strength and the match did not come to an end easily. Therefore Yoshitoki HOJO came between two and made it a draw, but Tsunemori leaped onto the horse and left without changing his clothes. Yoshihide was bitterly disappointed and people in the gathering roared with laughter.

Story of Yosihide's great physical strength is also included in "Sogamonogatari" (the tale of Soga). There is a legend that Yoshihide cut open Asahina Kiridoshi (a road cut through hilly terrain) in Kamakura over a night.

On May 30, 1213, Yoshihide's father Yoshimori decided to take up arms against a regent Yoshitoki HOJO, for Yoshitoki's repeated provocation. He led 150 horsemen of Wada family into Shogun's palace in Kamakura. According to "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East), Yoshihide displayed the most remarkable service. Yoshihide broke through somon (main gate of castle or residence) and entered into nantei (garden at south of the residence). He slew gokenin at defense, including Kobunji IGARASHI, Morishige KUZUNUKI, 新野景直 and Renjo RAIHA, one after another and he was praised as 'he showed god-like strength and his enemy would not escape the death'.

There was Shigemochi TAKAI, his male cousin (son of Yoshimochi WADA who was Yoshimori's younger brother), among the gokenin who were protecting the Imperial Palace. Members of the same family, they wanted to fight to a decisive finish, so they both threw away their bows and fought each other on horseback; when they fell from their horses, they continued to fight hand-to-hand until Yoshihide eventually killed Shigemochi. Then Tomotoki HOJO (son of Yoshitoki) attacked Yoshihide with a sword but Yoshihide defeated Tomotoki with ease and Tomotoki was injured and narrowly escaped.

After that Yoshihide encountered Yoshiuji ASHIKAGA (the third head of ASHIKAGA family) at a bridge in front of Mandokoro (Administrative Board). Yoshihide grabbed Yoshiuji's sleeve of armor, to not let Yoshiuji escape, and Yoshiuji escaped without having a fight. Because Yoshiuji was good at horseback riding, he run without falling even though his sleeve of armor was tore off, and there came a spy of Takatsukasa to block Yoshihide's way. Yoshihide killed the man but Yoshiuji escaped. Although Yoshihide fought bravely, army of Wada was exhausted and retreated to Yuigahama.

The next day, on May 3, army of Wada got assistance of Yokoyama Party and took way into Wakamiya-oji Street, and fought fiercely with the army of bakufu. Yoshihide again fought bravely on the day and slew 小物資政, a resident of Chinzei (nickname of Kyushu) who was attacking their armed camp. He lined up as 3 horsemen with Yoshikiyo TSUCHIYA and Yasutada FURUGORI, thrusting into enemy army and dispersed the army of bakufu by making an incessant onslaught.

However the army of bakufu was a large force and sent out fresh troops one after another, and army of Wada reduced the number gradually from exhaustion. In the end his older brother Yoshinao WADA was slew and Yoshimori, who cried from deep grief of loosing his beloved son, was also killed. Although his families died in the battle one after another, strong Yoshihide did not die and took 6 boats to escape to his shoryo (territory) Awa Province with approximately 500 horsemen on.

His whereabouts after that are not known. "Genealogy of Wada" tells that he escaped into Goryeo.

About Yoshihide's mother
Because he was a hero with great physical strength, it has been told that he was a son of female warrior, Tomoe Gozen who held great physical strength and displayed remarkable deeds in gunki monogatari (martial tales) such as "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike). "Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans) tells that Yoshihide was born, as Yoshimori desired Tomoe Gozen who had been a prisoner after the death of Yoshinaka KISO. However the story was a fiction as Yoshihide's birth year ("Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East) tells he was 38 years old at the time of Battle of WADA in 1213) was before the fall of Yoshinaka.

Legend of Saburo ASAHINA
He is believed to be the same person as Saburo in 'Legend of Saburo ASAHINA' told in Yamato-cho, Kurokawa County, Miyagi Prefecture. In the legend, Saburo ASAHINA digged Matsushima Bay to create Mt. Funagata. A trail that he dragged the soil became Yoshida-gawa River and footprint became Shinai-numa Swamp. Lumps of earth that fell from hamper became mountains of Nanatsumori (a generic name of 7 mountains in Yamato-cho, Kurokawa County, Miyagi Prefecture).

Although it is not directly related to actual Yoshihide and derived indirectly, there are many names and signs that originated from Saburo ASAHINA in the legend in Yamato-cho.

Character of Yamato-cho 'Asahina Saburo' (created in 1993 as a character for a road sign)

Japan Agricultural Cooperatives 'JA Asahina' in Yamato-cho

Names related to Miyatoko dam

Dam lake 'Asahina Lake'

Generic name of parks around the dam (dam, upstream and downstream) is 'Asahina Lakeside Park'

Popular name of park at downstream 'Saburo Koryu Hiroba (an open space for cultural exchange)'

[Original Japanese]